Left to right: Mary Glindon MP, Holly Lynch MP, Dani Worthington, Moorside Primary School; Sir David Amess MP, Monika Jephcott, Chief Executive, PTUK; Jeff Thomas, Registrar, PTUK
By Helen Clark: Director, The Child Mental Health Charter Campaign
The tragic murder of Sir David Amess; MP for Southend West whilst conducting a habitual constituency surgery in one of the local churches, has horrified and saddened the nation. My grief for David is both personal and professional; we were colleagues together (representing different political parties) during my time as an MP from 1997- 2005 but we were also great friends. This appreciation concentrates necessarily upon our work together in the field of child mental health; but over nearly 25 years, we have united to fight for other causes and campaigns also.
In all of his activities, David’s commitment was total; his energy unparalleled and the humour grace and kindliness with which he approached everything and everyone was simply unique.
Monika Jephcott and Jeff Thomas from Play Therapy UK and Play Therapy International were members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood of which I was and continue to be, Lead Author. As an outcome of our Reports on children’s mental health, we set up the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign; calling for the adoption of six broad Principles to put children at the heart of mental health policy. We needed a champion in the House of Commons with the conviction, authority and credibility to speak on our behalf to policymakers and give the issue a national voice.
This David did without hesitation…and without pause.
He wrote numerous letters on our behalf to Secretaries of State for Health and Education and the Prime Minister and was the first parliamentarian to raise the Charter Campaign on the floor of the House of Commons. David met Monika and Jeff in the House and encouraged other colleagues to assist us by asking Parliamentary Questions, signing our Candidates’ Pledge when the 2019 General Election was called and persuading others to support children’s mental health policy in Backbench debates.
David hosted a highly successful launch of the Charter Campaign at a House of Commons Reception; personally invited the then Mental Health Minister, Nadine Dorries MP to address a packed Jubilee Room and then persuaded her to hold an impromptu ‘no holds barred’ Question and Answer session with Play Therapists. David was due to host a special Child Mental Health Charter lunch for interested MPs in the House of Commons, but this was unfortunately cancelled because of the pandemic. However, despite this set-back, he arranged several opportunities for us to express our views to Jeremy Hunt, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee and supported our campaign for children’s mental health needs to be enshrined in the new Mental Health Bill when it is introduced to the Houses of Parliament in 2022.
David was also intending to host a House of Commons Terrace Reception on 1st March 2022 on behalf of the Children’s Alliance campaign for the Prime Minister to appoint a Cabinet Minster for Children.
Since David’s untimely death, many have paid tribute to the wonderful work that he did (always with a smile) and several minutes before he was cruelly assassinated, he was planning to initiate a Children’s Parliament event like the true children’s champion that he was.
David Amess proved that the effective conduct of politics does not have to be abusive, aggressive or steam-rollering your opponent. He personified ‘a kinder gentler politics’ and, as one of his parliamentary colleagues has said
‘He was the best of us.’
He was indeed.